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12 Interesting and Fun Facts About Portugal

Author:

Anna resided in Lisbon, Portugal for two years, married a Lisbonite, and calls the picturesque city her second home (after NYC).

How much do you know about Europe's westernmost country?

How much do you know about Europe's westernmost country?

Portugal is a fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt throughout each of its cities from its bustling capital right down to its tiny, picture-perfect villages. I've been living in Portugal for a few years now and have learned loads of fascinating facts about its culture and history.

Are you planning on visiting Europe's westernmost country soon? Do you have Portuguese roots and want to learn more about your ancestors and cultural heritage? Whatever the case may be, I hope you enjoy these 12 facts about Portugal and what makes it unique.

The Portuguese Empire was huge—its former territories are annotated in green on this map.

The Portuguese Empire was huge—its former territories are annotated in green on this map.

1. Half of the "New World" Once Belonged to Portugal

In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed. This document essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the "New World," including Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia. The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in history. It was also one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for almost six centuries from when Ceuta was captured in 1415 until Macau (now China) was handed-over in 1999.

In 1808, Dom João, the King of Portugal, moved to Brazil and proclaimed a single state that included Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves. The single state was called the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves and was effective from 1815-1822. The new capital of the kingdom was Rio de Janeiro. The kingdom was disestablished in 1822 after the king returned to Portugal in 1821, leaving his son, Prince Dom Pedro, to rule Brazil. In turn, the country soon declared independence from Portugal.

2. Portuguese Is the Official Language of Nine Countries

Over 236 million people worldwide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.

3. Portugal Is the Oldest Country in Europe

Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe. Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139, and the country remained a kingdom for almost 800 years thereafter until a successful 1910 revolution by the Portuguese Republican Party.

Lisbon's Bertrand bookstore has been around since 1732.

Lisbon's Bertrand bookstore has been around since 1732.

4. The Oldest Bookstore in the World Is in Portugal's Capital

Bertrand bookstore, or Livraria Bertrand (pictured above at the corner), was established in 1732 and is located in Lisbon, Portugal's capital city. This makes it the oldest still-operational bookstore in the world. Moravian Bookshop, the next oldest, opened in Pennsylvania in 1745.

5. Portugal Is the Largest Cork Producer in the World

Portugal produces 70% of the world's cork exports. This makes sense, as the country also boasts the world's largest cork forest. The primary importers of Portuguese cork are Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.

University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

6. One of the Oldest Universities in Europe Is in Portugal

The University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent. The school now has over 20,000 students and has been named an official World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was founded by King Dinis, a monarch remembered for his contributions to Portugal's literary and agricultural legacies.

Vasco da Gama Bridge was the longest in Europe until 2018.

Vasco da Gama Bridge was the longest in Europe until 2018.

7. Portugal Has the Second-Longest Bridge in Europe

The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 7.6 miles (12.3 kilometers) long. It was the longest in Europe for about 20 years until the Crimean Bridge was opened in Russia in 2018.

8. Portugal and England Have the Oldest Diplomatic Alliance in the World

The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is still in force to this day. Both countries have entered wars to defend the other. Notable examples include the United Kingdom entering the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal entering World War I. Talk about having someone's back!

Portugal is known for its long, surfable coast. This image shows a surfer riding a wave at Praia da Poça near Estoril, Portugal.

Portugal is known for its long, surfable coast. This image shows a surfer riding a wave at Praia da Poça near Estoril, Portugal.

9. Portugal Is One of the World's Top Surf Spots

Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles (800 kilometers) and it's known to have 364 days of surf per year. This makes it a popular destination for surfers and beach-goers from all over the world.

10. Lisbon Was Hit by One of the Most Powerful Earthquakes in European History

On the 1st of November in 1755, Lisbon was struck by an approximately 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami and fires that reduced much of the city to rubble. The earthquake struck on All Saints Day, a major holiday that involved churches being filled with burning candles. When the earthquake struck, many of these candles toppled and caused major fires. 275,000 residents were killed, and 85 percent of the city's buildings were destroyed. Locals talk about the devastating natural disaster to this day.

11. Portuguese Fado Music Is an Intangible Cultural Heritage

Fado (fate in Portuguese) is a genre of music that originated in urban Lisbon sometime before 1820. Fado is a mournful and heart-touching style of folk music typically sung by common people and passed down through generations orally. The musical genre was added to the World's Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2011 by UNESCO.

12. Portugal Was the First Colonial Power to Abolish Slavery

Despite having been heavily involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade, Portugal abolished slavery all the way back in 1761—that's half a century before Britain, France, Spain, or the United States.

Test Your Knowledge About Portugal!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Where is Portugal located?
    • It's a provice of Spain
    • It's a provice of Brazil
    • It's a country in Western Europe
    • It's a country in Latin America
  2. Portugal borders which Ocean?
    • The Atlantic Ocean
    • The Pacific Ocean
    • The Indian Ocean
    • There is no ocean bordering Portugal
  3. What is the capital of Portugal?
    • Porto
    • Rio de Janeiro
    • Madrid
    • Lisbon
  4. In which of these countries is Portuguese NOT spoken?
    • Angola
    • Mozambique
    • Morocco
    • Macau
  5. What was the Portuguese currency before the Euro?
    • Escudo
    • Lira
    • Peso
    • Dollar
  6. Which was the last country in Africa to gain independence from Portugal?
    • Angola
    • Mozambique
    • Cape Verde
    • Sao Tome
  7. How do you say "hello" in Portuguese?
    • Hola
    • Olá
    • Olé
    • Eyhay
  8. What's the traditional Portuguese music?
    • Salsa
    • Flamenco
    • Fado
    • Samba
  9. In what year did Portugal host the World Expo?
    • 1990
    • 1994
    • 1998
    • None of the above

Answer Key

  1. It's a country in Western Europe
  2. The Atlantic Ocean
  3. Lisbon
  4. Morocco
  5. Escudo
  6. Angola
  7. Olá
  8. Fado
  9. 1998

Questions & Answers

Question: Where did Portugal get its name?

Answer: It is believed that Portugal got its name from the city of Porto in the northwest region. Porto is derived from the word for 'door', as in 'door to the ocean', from where many ships left during the age of discovery.

Question: Who is the king of Portugal?

Answer: Portugal does not have a king. The monarchy ended about a century ago.

Question: What is the most amazing memento Portugal has to offer?

Answer: There are many moments to choose from but if I had to pick one, I'd pick something made from cork like a handbag or shoes from an established company like Pelcor

Question: Is Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What is the currency of Portugal?

Answer: The Euro.

Question: How did Portugal become independent?

Answer: Portugal was a large powerful empire and is now a sovereign nation. It did not gain independence from any nation but others like Brazil, Angola, etc. gained independence from Portugal.

Question: Is Cristiano Ronald from Portugal?

Answer: Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is from Portugal. From the island of Madeira, to be exact.

Question: Where is Portugal?

Answer: Portugal is in southwest Europe.

Comments

hi on April 28, 2020:

i learned alot

Joao on February 24, 2020:

Thank you so much for making this article! It had tons of helpful information. I learned a lot from reading this.

Your mom on January 17, 2020:

Americoa1 to the house is a?

sixninethensnitchnine on November 22, 2019:

Me liek

Matilda Woods from Toronto on November 20, 2019:

Neat article! I love Portugal!

pooper69 on October 09, 2019:

i like the portugal cuz funny and a big empire and i i class r, ad learing portugal stuff, thaks for the help and wish you luck about this so bye kbow i gonna do somethig rn, bye guys gn a nd see you guys tommoroow

BYE

cool kid on September 14, 2019:

who would know that Portugal did not have a king very helpful

cool girl on June 24, 2019:

Ronaldo is a football player

reon hope on June 10, 2019:

go ronaldo big fan

julie on June 10, 2019:

Thank you so much super helpful

sarah on June 01, 2019:

i am 100 percent portugesse and proud

Anonymous on May 23, 2019:

Who is Christiano Ronaldo?

Anonymous on May 22, 2019:

San Valle is spanish

Kitty on February 26, 2019:

Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously from Portugal

jack on February 19, 2019:

this worked nice

Anna (author) from New York, NY on January 30, 2019:

Yes, Christiano Ronaldo is from Portugal. The island of Madeira to be exact!

ebad on January 27, 2019:

Is Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal?

BROTHER on January 04, 2019:

COOL STUFF BRO

alex on December 03, 2018:

i like your comments

FrankNation on December 02, 2018:

This is god Information

me on November 18, 2018:

i have only been to Portugal once i now i know so much more about it this has also really helped with my geography project

Thanksx

Anna (author) from New York, NY on July 29, 2018:

@Ally: bacalhau is a type of fish, cod to be exact. It's really popular in Portugal

Ally on July 28, 2018:

Is Bacalhau a name?

Zinhle Zuze on July 12, 2018:

This website is really helpful whilst doing school projects!!!!!!!

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Julieta pedro on June 20, 2018:

Really, really helpful

jillie on June 15, 2018:

we have just done a full exam on my laptop for nothing and this was the greatest resource we have come across so far, so thanks:)!

Emma on June 11, 2018:

I love this page but portugal isnt the oldest country in Europe its the 5th oldest

jeff on May 21, 2018:

i have always wanted to know

Elisio Alves on April 16, 2018:

Portugal is the safest and most friendly in the planet

Sussy Maraca on April 12, 2018:

i got 100 the first time. ha! BEAT THAT!!!!!

ana on March 25, 2018:

I'm doing a school project on portugal and I'm from brazil

ola on March 10, 2018:

im portugees and im proud

nevaeh on March 07, 2018:

im portugees and im proud

sweghvftcfwnhs on February 09, 2018:

portugal is not the oldest country in europe it is one of the oldest countrys in europe

Adelerolsky from Bamberg Germany on December 01, 2017:

I have a correction to point 3. Our first King Afonso was not proclaimed King in 1139 according this article "Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139" but it was in 1143 by the Treaty of Zamora.

And I wanted to reply to someone about the slavery: Portuguese did not initiate slavery. The African sold their own kind to Portuguese. However I am very proud that Portuguese were the first to initiate the end of slavery.

i on November 18, 2017:

I Anna the competition was splendid and this gave me a+ in my work also I'm portugese

Alex on November 17, 2017:

The quiz was easy and I got 100%

kara on October 31, 2017:

the quiz was hard

Emily on September 15, 2017:

Hey Anna! This was such a great article! I used it as a resource for an article I'm writing about Portugal for my own site. I included a link back to your site so hopefully you get some more exposure here, too! Thanks for the great info and a fun article to read!!

Beatriz on August 25, 2017:

I'm portuguese! And one thing that everyone usually reminds of us is that we are very caring people

amrendra singh on May 30, 2017:

i heard about portugal and i get enroll in portugal college hopefully it will be a great journey for my life

marquis on May 23, 2017:

portugal is a very good good place to live

David on March 22, 2017:

Awesome List!! My mom moved from Portugal when she was 9 and this covers everything she has told us!!!

hi on March 08, 2017:

great facts

geography pro on February 17, 2017:

Another interesting fact about Portugal:

Portugal holds the record for the shortest reign: Prince Luis Filipe reigned for less than 10 minutes!!!

Francisco on February 17, 2017:

Portugal was not only the first country to abolish slavery but also the first country to START slavery!!

(I'm Portuguese)

*Can't tell safety reasons* on November 18, 2016:

This is very useful for my project about Portugal! I'm glad I checked this out!!!

Margaridab on October 20, 2016:

Good article with interesting facts

Debbie on October 16, 2016:

Sorry but Portugal did not host the World cup in 1998. The country host was France.

Thanks

Alex on June 18, 2016:

Just so you now, "principe" and "são tomé" are the same country: São Tomé and Principe

Thomas James from London on February 20, 2015:

Great hub love Portugal!

hi on October 19, 2014:

this is cool

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on September 30, 2014:

My husbands family is Portugese, so I really love the sound and passion of the Fado. Good article

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 29, 2014:

We are planning to visit this winter so I am really absorbing all of these info.

Mikey Cabral on September 23, 2014:

We are "KNOWN" where it matters.

Long live Portugal ........ :)

Işın Tuzcular from Istanbul on August 25, 2014:

I plan to see Lisbon, an interesting lens for me :)

emanuela on June 21, 2014:

portuguese is alsospoken in Angola and Mozambique

Alexandra Condesso on June 19, 2014:

Loved this article about my beautiful country. You are all most welcome in here!

Ralnados girlfriend on June 11, 2014:

I love u

Ralonados girlfriend on June 11, 2014:

I love u honey xxox

grace on June 02, 2014:

have a great week

Maria Soares on April 29, 2014:

Awesome information that the majority doesn't know about it.

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 24, 2014:

Interesting hub! :) Voted up. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Have a great week.

Phyllis Padinha on March 01, 2014:

I'm Portuguese and proud. Awesome hub. Will visit portugal next year, I can't wait❤️

gus on February 27, 2014:

Congratulations on your great work I'm glad you did it so people can see that Portugal doesn't end at Ronaldo's backyard there is so much more to see and also that portuguese is a language (no, we don't Speak spanish or french in Portugal) also Portugal its not in south America nor a french or Spanish province, yes we are a nation and we are in europe. Just as a curiosity portuguese were in Australia about 200 years earlier than captain Cook

Pedro Vieira on February 27, 2014:

Awesome list! For the readers planning to travel to Portugal, I recommend using services like www.WiserGo.com which let's you design several travel packages with Portuguese agents, select your favorite, they will book everything and provide customer support while you're in Portugal. Since they are local agents, they know the ins-and-outs of everything and you get to experience the country as a local!

Susan Morrison on February 27, 2014:

My family is from Madeira, I would love to see more written about this part of Portugal , I feel left out? The island in my mind is a combo of old world Europe and the flora of Hawaii. What do you think.

Prince Albert on February 27, 2014:

what happened to having the UK's back in WWII?

Constance Houck on February 27, 2014:

Lived in Portugal over three years and still learned a couple of new factoids. Such an amazing tiny little country, for a visit or a new life.

Ken Westmoreland from Taunton, Somerset on August 20, 2013:

Portugal is a very nice country, I agree, but you have got your facts mixed up regarding countries where Portuguese is an official language. São Tomé e Príncipe is one country, not two, while Portuguese is an official language in East Timor. It is still an official language in Macau, which is a special administrative region of China. Equatorial Guinea only recently adopted it as one of its official languages - despite being a former Spanish colony, there are people there who speak a Portuguese creole.

Many words from Portuguese have entered different languages, for example, the words for 'table' in Swahili and Indonesian, 'meza' and 'meja', both come from 'meja' in Portuguese. This is a legacy of when Portuguese was a trade language - Portugal needs to rediscover that intrepid and entrepreneurial spirit again!

The Treaty of Windsor is an anachronism - logically, Britain should have helped defend Portugal when Goa was taken over by India, but it didn't.

Dennis on August 16, 2013:

Most Americans do not know mainland Portuguese, only people from Azores. Different cultures, like Spanish and Mexican.

Oscar Pena on August 16, 2013:

Love your article . I am portuguese living in America but my country and my people are always close to my heart . Thank you .

Vivian-tmt-hnp from USA. on August 16, 2013:

8:41am Friday 16 August 2013

Dear Global-Chica,

Thank for your nice article. I can learn more about Portugal when reading yours.

Vivian

Natasha Pelati from South Africa on August 16, 2013:

I had a brief stay in Portugal and wish I had this info then. Ver inteesting hub and will keep the info handy for the next trip!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on August 15, 2013:

Awesome article on a country I know quite well.

But they should have won the 2004 European Cup. I still can't believe Greece got away with it.

And I love their Portuguese Transmontano Mastiff, a real livestock guardian dog that can be a great protector against wolf predation in the USA and Canada.

Barbara on August 15, 2013:

we were there in 2008 for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. I must say it is a beautiful country. We would go back if God willing. when we go back to Italy B-)

Jennifer Vasquez from Long Beach, CA on August 15, 2013:

I wasn't aware of many of these facts. Your photos of the country are beautiful. My favorite is that the oldest bookstore is in Portugal! Thanks for sharing these.

Toy Tasting from Mumbai on June 30, 2013:

Awesome Hub! Most of these facts are new to me. Thank you for expanding my horizons on Portuguese. Learnt many surprising facts.

Hezekiah from Japan on June 30, 2013:

Very interesting, I've been to Portugal before , but never knew most of these facts.

Anna (author) from New York, NY on June 27, 2013:

Vidalia, how exciting that you're returning to Portugal this summer. I'm glad that you enjoyed this article :) I haven't written a similar one about the Azores but thanks for the idea. Have a great time in Portugal!

Vidalia on June 27, 2013:

Thanks for the article. Returning to st Michaels, Lisbon and algarve this summer. Do you have a similar list of facts for the azorean islands?

Pacific World DMC & PCO from Barcelona on May 16, 2013:

Interesting Hub !

Marvin Parke from Jamaica on May 07, 2013:

Love that language portuguese. I must visit Portugal when I am I'm in Europe.

Pete on April 18, 2013:

"Gabriel 13 months ago

Slavery was also invented by the Portuguese the once dominated the world, and lost everything with on show off ."

LOL and ur saying that the egypcians made their piramides with part-time employees :) and the roman gladiators were doing wrestling on their free time for some bucks because the romans didn't had a health care :D

LOL dude Portugal didn't invent slavery...lololol

darrien on October 14, 2012:

im not going to porchugal anymore because it cost over 1,000000 $:-(

darrienfrost7 on October 14, 2012:

hi thanks that was a really fancy thing you posted i hope i meet you when i go to portugal

Veronika on October 05, 2012:

Ok, soy...It is not Bulgaria, it is san Marino, 301...Bulgaria is the next...

Veronika on October 05, 2012:

Portugal is not oldest country in Europe. Bulgaria is the oldest country, since 681 maybe even earlier...Bulgaria haven´t the same borders, no but Bulgaria was much bigger than now...Same name, same language...

Ok, Portugal mabe is the oldest country in Europe with the same borders...but not THE OLDEST!

oceansider on October 01, 2012:

I enjoyed reading your article about Portugal....it was well done, with lots of good information......There is an elderly couple that goes to my church, and they are Portugese......I don't know where they are from in Portugal. I'll tell them that I read your article & if they have a computer, I will email them the link to this hub so they can read it.

Thanks for sharing this.

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on September 07, 2012:

I thought only Portugal and Brazil are the countries with Portuguese-speaking people. Thanks for sharing your info, I've learned a lot of surprising discoveries about the country. :)

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on August 31, 2012:

Thanks for your interesting facts on Portugal, a lovely country I have visited on a number of occasions. We drove over that long long bridge in Lisbon! Some length!Voted and sharing on!:-)

Eduardo Xavier on August 05, 2012:

Portugal have the oldest border in Europe for that fact it is the Oldest country in Europe.

Portugal is the oldest country because never changed his borders or name since 1297 "tratado de alcanizes".

Denmark is the oldest but it has change his borders.

João Nunes on July 10, 2012:

Portugal is an interesting country but ...

1. Portugal is not the oldest country in Europe.

Bulgaria, France, Denmark, England, Hungary and San Marino

are older ! They existed as kingdoms well before Portugal !

The Portuguese borders date from 1297, not from 1139.

2. Portugal abolished slavery in 1761 only in mainland Portugal and portuguese India. Slavery continued to exist in portuguese africa until

1869.

Anna (author) from New York, NY on April 04, 2012:

Thanks so much, free-seotools. Portugal is amazing, I agree!

free-seotools from Portugal on April 04, 2012:

We love Portugal. Great hub.

Gabriel on March 22, 2012:

Slavery was also invented by the Portuguese the once dominated the world, and lost everything with on show off .

Anna (author) from New York, NY on March 21, 2012:

CClitgirl: thanks and I'm happy you found these facts informative. I hope you'll get a chance to travel to this beautiful country!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 21, 2012:

Wow! What great facts here! I learned so much about Portugal. Now, I want to go! :)

Anna (author) from New York, NY on March 21, 2012:

Thanks, ithabise! I'm glad that you enjoyed my collection of facts about Portugal.

Michael S from Danville, VA on March 21, 2012:

Very interesting! I enjoy geography very much and this adds much to my knowledge--thank you!